$800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

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$800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:05 am

Hello,
I am very new to building systems. I would like to build one mainly for gaming purposes and general web browsing / office work (this will be my only computer at home). I would say that my budget is around $800 for this PC, and I wanted to get your input about what would be good to buy. I live in the US and I don't necessarily have a preferred place to shop, although so far I have found that Newegg and NCIX are fairly cheap (is http://us.ncix.com/ reliable?). I do not need a keyboard/mouse/monitor/optical drive/operating system. I have started thinking about some parts and here is what I have so far:

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($289.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Samsung 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($35.99 @ Amazon)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($69.99 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: Asus Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition 2GB Video Card ($229.98 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Arc Midi Tower ATX Mid Tower Case ($77.52 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: XFX 550W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($53.99 @ NCIX US)
Total: $827.45
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)

I welcome your input. I've been debating whether or not to get an SSD... judging from reviews I've read, my impression is that they fail very quickly. I'm open to it, but it would be a real hassle if the drive fails after a short period of time. Another comment is that I believe the HD 7xxx / Geforce 6xx have been out for a while, and the new HD 8xxx / Geforce 7xx series should come out relatively soon. With this in mind, do you think I should wait for these new models? Is the PSU sufficient? I'm very ignorant with respect to cooling, do I need to buy any after market coolers? Is it enough to just use the stock fan with the CPU? Thank you very much!
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:26 am

I think I'd go with an i5 and either an SSD or a faster graphics card.

I'd definitely look for a black drive instead of that blue one if I wasn't getting an SSD.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:47 am

Imo, if you don't need any specific feature that the i7 3770 offers and if you don't overclock, you should go for a i5 3470.
Why? Well because you said the rig is gaming focused and here is how the 3470 fairs:
http://techreport.com/review/23246/insi ... day-cpus/8

As for video card, i believe you should take the money saved from the CPU and invest in a higher end video card, if not redirect the funds towards an SSD. But there is also the issue of noise. Look for a card that has a custom cooler (preferably with 2 fans) and that features heatsinks for the VRMs and memory (look for Asus or MSI etc. but read reviews of the specific model before deciding).

Regarding cooling, you should definently buy an after market cooler for the CPU just so you don't have to deal with the high pitched sound of the stock one during load. Thermalright True Spirit or Cooler Master Evo come highly recommended in the low end segment, good performers while being relatively cheap.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:32 am

Save money on the CPU side by getting an i5 3570k and reinvest said saved money into a faster GPU.

For the money you pay there's no worthwhile difference between the 3770k and 3570k, meanwhile the increase in GPU performance going to a GTX 670 or 7950 will be very noticeable. Since the main performance-targeted area of your build is gaming, this is a no brainer.

As for future GPU's, I haven't read any rumours pointing to a solid release date on AMD 8000 series, I think it might be fair to assume March 2013, but that's pure speculation at this point.

Next year's GeForces are going to be refreshes of the current Kepler architecture so it's not really worth holding out for IMO. It will probably only be an increase comparable to the Fermi refresh of GTX 480 to 580. The Maxwell architecture GPUs have been delayed to 2014.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:57 am

Do you need hyperthreading cores? and are you going to overclock?

If you plan on overclocking i highly rec the 3570k over the 3770k, If you do not get a k model along with the Z77 chipset you will not be able to overclock. a slightly overclocked 3570k will beat a stock 3770...plus since the 3570 is a good bit cheaper you can use the price difference to get a Z77 board you can properly overclock on and stay on budget.

As for a ssd you can add one later or get a small cheap small ssd one to work with intel's smart cache that will great improve the snappyness of the system with the programs you use most and boot times.
I just cannot see building a gaming rig with such a cheap motherboard and a non overclockable CPU. with the Money you save on downgrading to a 3570k that will run at 4.5 ghz on stock voltage more then likely ....along with a z77 motherboard that has 2 pcie 16 slots for future crossfire setup if you ever wanted to add another 7870.......Crossfire 7870s rock, You do not need 2 cards now perhaps you might never but at least have the ability to add one down the road if needed say 8 months to a year from now.

DO YOU LIVE NEAR A MICROCENTER STORE?????? If you do you can get a 3570k and a z77 board cheaper then everywhere on the net!!!
OMG they have the sandy bridge i5 2500k for 99$ that is crazy cheap and it runs cooler and overclocks higher then the 169$ i5 3570k. That 2500k price is awesome but. you will still save 120$ getting the 3570k over the 289$ 3770.
http://www.microcenter.com/product/3885 ... _Processor

As for a motherboard for 109$ ASRock Z77 Pro4 LGA 1155 ATX Intel Motherboard is a full size atx board and crossfire / sli compatible. http://www.microcenter.com/product/3875 ... otherboard

If you do that your 80$ under budget, then use that 80$ and get a good cooler and a slightly better motherboard. Microcenter also has the coolermaster hyoer 212 evo for 29.99 and is the best air cooler you can buy for the money. Pony up another 20$ and mocrocenter has a closed loop water cooler the antec 620 for 49.99 that will perform better then the hyper 212. It keeps my 2600k cool at 4700mhz in 70 degree ambient temp.....but i never let my cpu break 75c even though its perfectly safe i keep my temp limit at 70c.
So if you live by a microcenter or not, let us all know and we can build you the most futureproof system for the money!
824$ goes a helluva long way nowadays for a great gaming rig :)
I spent 1600$ well over a year and a half ago for my 2600k rig with sli 560tis in my signature and she is still among the baddest of the bad when it come to a gaming rig/video prossesor!.....It has been until just recently "well around 2 years" with the release of sandy bridge that computers are not outdated performance wise 6 months to almost 2 years later. My rig is a testament to that.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 9:41 am

Obligatory System Guide post. With that, here are some observations:

Your budget falls about $300 short of the Sweet Spot build, or $200 over the Econobox, so I would start with one of those and either trim down or build up from there. JAE will probably be along shortly to help out with specific suggestions.

I'm somewhat mixed as to whether it fits in at the $800 mark, but a SSD would be an excellent addition to any system, and you should be able to find one in the 128 GB range for $90-$100. The value is somewhat less for 60 GB drives, but it would still snap up the speed of your system. If you pick a more reliable manufacturer, you should have to worry about failures you're hearing about. Samsung seems to be an excellent choice. (830, even though it's been kicked up to $110 for 128 GB).

If you're worried about a new line of video cards coming out, you DO have the option of shorting on the video card now, getting the SSD and other improvements now, and then picking up a beefy video card in the future. You might have to turn a few settings down in the short run, but a 7770 would get you fairly solid performance if you're planning a relatively quick replacement. By the way, what resolution will you be playing at?
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:29 am

I would get something like an i5 - 3550 (3.3 GHz , quad core), and a 128GB SSD (i got an OCZ Vertex 4 myself), and you would spend about the same money. You will still have plenty of cpu power, and loading the OS will be much faster!
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:07 am

Your build seems pretty decent apart from the i7 which really doesn't offer much benefit over an i5 for games, so use that hundred bucks to upgrade to a decent SSD instead.

I've been debating whether or not to get an SSD... judging from reviews I've read, my impression is that they fail very quickly.

If you're worried about reliability get yourself an Intel 330 series SSD. Intel SSD's have the best track record by far and they are definitely more reliable than traditional spinning disks. There isn't a lot of info on disk reliability but this french site is often quoted for showing Intel as the market leaders, being twice as reliable as the most reliable spinning disks.

Another comment is that I believe the HD 7xxx / Geforce 6xx have been out for a while, and the new HD 8xxx / Geforce 7xx series should come out relatively soon. With this in mind, do you think I should wait for these new models?

Nope. Waiting gains you nothing, because AMD and Nvidia are very good about pricing their models relative to the market.
If a new card offers 10% more performance, you can guarantee it will cost at least 10% more. There's a price/performance curve which both AMD and Nvidia stick to pretty closely. Techreport's value scatter-plots highlight this quite effectively.

Is the PSU sufficient?

Yep, it sure is.

I'm very ignorant with respect to cooling, do I need to buy any after market coolers? Is it enough to just use the stock fan with the CPU? Thank you very much!

The stock fans with your CPU and case will be fine. They may be slightly noisier than aftermarket fans, but not by enough to really warrant spending money unless you plan to overclock everything.
My one suggestion would be to get the Arc Mini instead of the Arc Midi. It still has plenty of space but being smaller it takes less fan effort to cycle all the air in the case. You get three fans free with the case and it's worth picking up one more 120mm fan to fit in the spare front bay.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:30 am

SSD - once you start, you just can't stop.

The worst reliability problems were generally with the early Sandforce drives, particularly the OCZ models. You'll generally find lots of good things about any Intel model, the Crucial M4, and the Samsung 830 series. This here at $80 is a good entry-level choice if you need the 2.5-3.5 conversion bracket and cables, otherwise both Crucial and Samsung are selling 128GB bare drives for around $110.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:01 pm

Obligatory "Do you live near a Microcenter" post. They offer the best CPU + mobo combo deals around. Their prices on other components is just average though. You're probably better off buying the rest of your components online. Hard to beat an i5-3570K and Asrock Z77 Pro4-M for $240.

Get an SSD (120GB minimum) and consider an AMD 7950 with its 3-free-games bundle. Other than that, looks decent.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:34 pm

DPete27 wrote:Hard to beat an i5-3570K and Asrock Z77 Pro4-M for $240.


That combination offers a lot of bang for the buck. Gaming performance of the i5-3570K is very similar to the i7 CPUs with hyper-threading, but it costs $100 less.

Do try to fit a 90 to 128 GB SSD into your budget.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:07 pm

Since we're talking about Microcenter, they do have that deal on the i5 2500K going on for $100. It's a last generation part, but at that price and your budget it might fit the bill. It trails the newer i5s, but not by much. As others have said, going for an i7 is probably a waste of money.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sat Nov 17, 2012 5:45 am

Hello,
Thank you very much for your responses, I sincerely appreciate your time and replies. I forgot to mention that my resolution would be 1920 x 1080. I have some more questions. Initially, as a general comment, I was interested in getting a 3770 or 3770K because I thought it would make my computer more "future-proof." I was of the impression that it's important to spend more money on extremely important components (such as CPU + GPU) in order to make things last longer, as I intend to use this for a long time. Do people not benefit from hyper-threading? I would imagine most people run many applications simultaneously (enough to spill well over the number of physical cores). However, since everyone seems to have a different opinion, you are swaying me towards a core i5 :).

cheesyking wrote:I think I'd go with an i5 and either an SSD or a faster graphics card.

I'd definitely look for a black drive instead of that blue one if I wasn't getting an SSD.

Can you elaborate on this? It seems like you're saying to get a black drive without an SSD and a blue drive with an SSD, and I was curious as for the reason. I am now leaning towards fitting an SSD into the build, I guess by going down to a core i5.
There is a microcenter which is somewhat close to me (it seems to be maybe 1.5 hours away... which is slightly annoying). If I overclock a 3570K, what is a reasonable speed to overclock it while still having it work with the stock CPU fan (or is the suggestion that, if you overclock at all, you better get an aftermarket fan)? If I were going to the Microcenter store, as some of you have said, I would probably get the CPU + Mobo combo deal with the ASRock Z77 Pro4-M. Would a micro ATX board be able to fit properly into a mid-tower case? By the way, do people recommend I get a mid-tower or a mini tower (I would've guessed that mid-towers have better heat dissipation)? By the way, do people have any particular recommendations regarding a case? I tend to prefer non-flashy/elegant cases.
ludi wrote:You'll generally find lots of good things about any Intel model, the Crucial M4, and the Samsung 830 series. This here at $80 is a good entry-level choice if you need the 2.5-3.5 conversion bracket and cables, otherwise both Crucial and Samsung are selling 128GB bare drives for around $110.

How do I know if I need the 2.5-3.5 conversion bracket and cables? Does it depend on the case I get? Also, if I upgrade the GPU to a 7950, is my PSU sufficient (most people seem to be talking about AMD GPU's... are these better bang for buck in general)?
Lastly, if I'm going with an HD 7870, do people recommend a particular brand? I was thinking of going with an XFX card because of their lifetime warranty, but perhaps this is the wrong metric to be optimizing (there seems to be a Double D card and a Core Edition card... I'm not sure why Double D is rated more highly).

Again, thank you for all of your responses.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:41 am

Rebbig,
Its fantastic that you live near a Microcenter. You will save a lot on the motherboard and CPU along with the Coolermaster 212 EVO CPU cooler that is now on sale there for 29.99....OR you could get the antec h620 water CPU watercooling system for 49.95..it a completely assembled sealed system"no Leaks" with a 120mm radiator and fan that mounts on the 120mm rear exhaust fan mount of your case with a waterblock to cool the CPU. Needless to say it will cool your cpu better then the hyper 212 evo. You can also add another 120mm fan to either cooling solution for a push pull setup that will add make them both more efficient by at least 10%

The 3570k is a hot cpu when overclocked, So to answer your Q...Yes you need a aftermarket cooler, the stock one is garbage.

As for the ssd and blu/ black drive question. Hard Disk Drives are the biggest bottleneck on all computers these days for when it comes to the speed of Booting up the OS, Loading your favorite programs and games and Pagefile access.
So a 90-120gb samsung 830 ssd for your OS and fav programs and games. Whatever Mechanical HHD will be for storage and whatever might be too big to install on the ssd...like say a steam library of games.
As for the black or blue drive the black drives perform a bit better and are higher quality. But If i had to save 30-40$ I would not hesitate for the blue drive...or even a big green drive, If you are indeed getting the SSD. I have 3 green drive that get heavy use and they work great.

Now as for the 7950 or the 7870....at 1080p a 7870 will be plenty it has 2gb of vram, overclocks to stock 7950 performance or better. As for the brand XFX cards seem to run hotter then say a HIS or gigabyte or asus card...even sapphire.
This gigabyte card comes clocked at 1100mhz 100 over stock and is the top rated card on newegg. It has a 3 fan cooling system that is great. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6814125418

Enjoy your ride :) I can spent well over a hour walking around the store just looking around. Its like a tradeshow for computers sorta. They have a ton of cases that you might want to see in the flesh before you pull the trigger on anything. I tend to lean torwards Coolermasters HAF series. I have the HAF 922 and it is a mid tower but do not let that fool you it is huge and comes with 2 200mm silent 19DB fans and a 120mm fan. the top 200mm fan i moved to the side panel to blow on the gpu/motherboard and help keep the VRMs cool on both items the top is a honeycomb design that will hold a 240mm radiator so you will not even need a top fan/fans. It is very well built and designed and easy to work with. I wold still buy another one over any other case. Microcenter has it for 109$ Its 99.99 at newegg but with 5.99 shipping so if you likey i would buy it at microcenter. Keep your smartphone on you so you can compare prices on stuff you are thinking about ordering online compared to MC if shipping makes the cost difference small i would just buy it at microcenter. You could have the system up and running before you online ordered video card arrives since the 3570k has a gpu built in :)
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Last edited by vargis14 on Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:45 am

Yeah, sorry I was a little brief...

I just meant that if you absolutely can't afford an ssd for your build then the very least you should do is get a high performance standard drive for your OS to live on.

If you were getting an ssd then the standard drive just becomes bulk storage where speed isn't so important making a blue or even green drive more acceptable.

As others have mentioned there is also the possibility to use a small SSD as a cache.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:45 am

Speed of general windows use with a WD blue as the primary drive:
|====|

Speed of a computer with a WD black as the primary drive:
|=====|

Speed of a computer with a 32GB, tiny SSD in cache mode using a z77 motherboard.
I==========|

Speed of a computer booting off a half-decent SSD:
|==============================================================================================================================================================|


Next time you see a loading bar, hourglass, busy icon - look down at your disk activity light. An SSD will make those moments pass by somewhere between 5 and 100 times faster, depending on whether that activity is random or sequential data.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:53 am

Rebbig wrote:How do I know if I need the 2.5-3.5 conversion bracket and cables?


Looking at the case you selected, the manufacturer says that the 3.5" bays are 2.5" compatible. I found this review on Tom's Hardware. The white brackets slide out and have mounting holes for both 3.5" and 2.5" drives. Screw the drive to the bracket and slide it back in. An SSD and HDD will use the same SATA connections.

The trays each hold one drive where some other manufacturers sell adapters for their 3.5" bays that will hold 2 of the smaller 2.5" drives. Of course, with the 8 internal bays in the case that is probably a non-issue.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:13 pm

Hello,
By the way, is there a particular reason most people are suggesting the ASRock Pro4-M motherboard? I see some other motherboards from microcenter that also get the $40 discount (also, at newegg, there are some mobos with free 8GB memory right now). What do people think of something like the ASUS P8Z77-V LX Socket 1155 Z77 ATX Intel Motherboard? Or the MSI Z77A-G45? Are there are any suggestions regarding mATX boards vs ATX boards (I believe m stands for micro, but basically my question is about micro boards versus normal mid-sized boards)? Again, thank you.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:35 pm

M atx boards are a bit shorter so they have less expansion slots.
As for the three Mbs you listed i would pick the MSI board since it is the only board that will support crossfire if you ever need to add a second video card.

It may cost a little more but the asrock z77extreem 4 board is inexpensive and a overall good board. cheaper yet asrock z77extreem 3 has good reviews on newegg and the free ddr3 1600 2x 4gb kit. gskill i think?

But are you not going to microcenter?

Whatever you get make sure it has 2 pci-e 16x ver3.0 slots that will run at 16x with one card or 8x and 8x speed with 2 cards. that way crossfire will work if you ever need or want to add another 7870 to pretty much double your frame rates.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:58 am

Actually, it turns out that Frys Electronics price matched the deals at microcenter (including the CPU + mobo combo), so I didn't have to go to microcenter :). Unfortunately, I did not get the MSI motherboard that you suggested (I think they had it in the store...). I believe the one I got does not satisfy the requirements you mentioned in case I want to do Crossfire: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813131824, so I'm thinking of going back and exchanging (though I'm not sure if I will do crossfire).
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:44 am

Cross fire or SLI is not a necessity but its sure nice to be able to do if you need more graphics power.

Asus makes fine motherboards, but you might want to make sure your case has a side fan on it to cool the VRMs around the cpu. That asus board has no heatsinks around the cpu socket.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sun Nov 18, 2012 4:18 pm

Does the MSI board you mentioned (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813130645) have heat sinks around the CPU socket? I can't quite see them, but I'm not so sure I know what I'm looking for.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sun Nov 18, 2012 5:06 pm

Ignore suggestions related to Crossfire. You absolutely do not need it (especially not at the resolution you're using).

This website (with it's inside-the-second frame-latency analysis) basically proves that multi-GPU solutions suck. COMPLETLY suck to the point that even though your framerate shown by FRAPS is higher, your actually smoothness could be worse. It's not just Techreport where you'll see this though. Google for Microstuttering and you'll find a hundred thousand angry people whining about choppy gameplay on dual-gpu configs. You'll find people annoyed that the latest games don't have proper SLI or Crossfire support yet, and you'll find that even when SLI or Crossfire *IS* supported, that you don't always get much benefit from using the second card.

Let's compare two $200 cards with one $400 card. For a start, you'll need a motherboard with extra PCI-E slots, a larger case, a power supply with extra PCI-E power cables, Even with the right number of slots, SLI-certified boards cost a bit more because SLI is licensed technology that has to be paid for. Once you have made these sacrifices, let see how the one card vs two stacks up in your favour:

  • You get microstuttering, ruining your framerate
  • You get less video ram, $200 cards come with less RAM and they can't share it with each other
  • 2 cards do not double your performance. Sometimes they do, but usually it's much less than double.
  • Even when they do double your performance, it often doesn't raise the minimum framerate (which is what matters)
  • You have more fans on two cards, which means more noise.
  • One of those cards will likely have poor airflow, meaning it would run hotter and noisier than usual.
  • Driver support is not automatic. Many games that run flawlessly on a single card will have issues/crashes/glitches running on two of the same card.
  • Some of the game rendering cannot be done on both cards. They bottlenck the primary card which takes a more significant hit than they would if you were using the $400 card instead
Basically, SLI is nice to have if you have 6+ megapixel displays, lots of money and one $500 card won't cut it. At that point you buy the only SLI solution that actually delivers the sort of performance you want (a GTX690). If *THAT* isn't enough for you, then you buy two of those. Every other dual-card solution is non-debatably inferior to the same money spent on a single better card. You can read it on here, you can read it on Anandtech, you can read it on Techpowerup and you can even read it dubious sell-out sites like THG.

Save your money and get a cheaper, better motherboard, a smaller, better power supply and a single decent graphics card.
When it gets old - don't buy a second old graphics card so they can prop each other up like two injured soldiers! Replace it with something new (that probably has more performance than two of the old card, runs quieter than one, and includes new features that didn't even exist when you bought the first card).
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:46 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:Ignore suggestions related to Crossfire. You absolutely do not need it (especially not at the resolution you're using).

+1

vargis14 wrote:Now as for the 7950 or the 7870....at 1080p a 7870 will be plenty it has 2gb of vram, overclocks to stock 7950 performance or better.

Don't forget the 3 free games bundled with the 7950. If you would otherwise buy Sleeping Dogs or Hitman (Far Cry 3 is included in both), then the extra $50 for the 7950 is a wash and you're getting a better card. Also, the GTX 660 offers nearly the same performance as the 7870 and includes Assassins Creed 3 if that game is of more interest to you. I would look at holiday deals and get whichever has the best sale. Heck, I saw a 7850 2GB on newegg for $150 (including Far Cry 3) during Black Friday.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Mon Nov 26, 2012 9:36 pm

Rebbig wrote:Is there a particular reason most people are suggesting the ASRock Z77 Pro4-M motherboard?
It's very inexpensive for a Z77 motherboard with at least two PCIe X16 slots, especially when you get it in the combination deal with the Core i5-3570K at Micro Center.

Rebbig wrote:Are there are any suggestions regarding mATX boards vs ATX boards?
Micro-ATX motherboards have up to four slots. You'll want one with four PCIe slots and no obsolete PCI slots (like the aforementioned ASRock Z77 Pro4-M or the Asus P8Z77-M Pro). ATX boards have up to six slots. If you really want an ATX motherboard, the Asus P8Z77-V LK is a decent option, but it doesn't offer much that the P8Z77-M Pro lacks except for two obsolete PCI slots.

I believe that a good Micro-ATX motherboard is sufficient for most systems. If you choose to buy into the SLI/Crossfire insanity and you have additional add-in cards, you'll need the space that ATX provides. If you stick to a single graphics card and just two expansion cards (e.g.: Sound card and TV tuner) or if you do SLI/Crossfire without any other cards except the pair of graphics cards, Micro-ATX is sufficient.

The benefits of SLI/Crossfire don't justify the headaches in my opinion. Select a good single GPU and go with it. For your 1920x1080 resolution, Radeon HD7850 2GB, GeForce GTX660, Radeon HD7870, GeForce GTX660Ti or Radeon HD7950 would provide excellent gaming performance. Radeon HD7850 2GB and Radeon HD7950 3GB cards currently provide the best bang for the buck.
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$300 -20MIR Sapphire 100352-2L (850->925 MHz Boost vs. 800 reference) Radeon HD7950 3GB with 3 games
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:40 pm

Hello,
Again, thanks everyone for your help. I decided to go with a different case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811146077. I realize this is a relatively small case, which means I may have to give up some of the hard drive bays in order to fit my video card (or maybe the SSD will fit... I'm not sure). I have some questions regarding air flow. I bought a Hyper 212 Plus. From my understanding, it should fit, but let's assume for now that it will fit in the case.
What are your thoughts about the location of the fan placements in the case? I would have assumed that it's better to have one in front and one in the rear (one intake and one exhaust), but currently there's one on top and one in the rear (both exhaust). Should I buy more case fans (I prefer not to)? Also, I imagine the best configuration for the Hyper212+ cooler is for the heat sink and fan to be parallel to the fan in the back of the case. Moreover, I assume the fan should be installed on the right side of the heat sink (this would give extra space between the hyper212 fan and the case fan in the back).
What about power supply? I got a good deal on this PSU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817139031. Should I mount the PSU so that the PSU fan faces upward into the case or downward toward the floor?
Lastly, any ideas on how to apply thermal paste to the CPU or heat sink? Do I apply to just the CPU? Just to the heat sink? Both? How should I apply it to the heat sink (assuming I should do this)? Thank you very much for your help!
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:26 am

Basic rules of thumb:

1) Positive air pressure. Have more fans blowing in than sucking out - this prevents excessive dust-collection which makes all your cooling efforts useless.
2) Keep airflow in a single direction if possible - intakes in one area, exhausts in another
3) Cover up any unused fan mounts near intakes if you are not using them for fans (this prevents fresh, cool air from escaping before it's been used to actually cool anything)
4) Keep your intakes as far away from your exhausts as possible. Usually happens if you're following rule 2 anyway.
5) If your graphics card has an open cooler (ie, one that doesn't fully exhaust through the backplate) then use the side-panel vent as an intake. Otherwise, leave it open but unused.

PSU orientation - depends on whether you have thick carpet on your floor. Suck air from under the case if you have a hard floor, suck air from inside the case if on thick carpet.
CPU cooler orientation - best to face an existing exhaust fan to get hot air from the heatsink out of the case as quickly as possible.
Thermal paste: Install CPU, squeeze a small line of goop into the middle of the bare CPU, about the same size as a cooked pilau rice grain.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:27 pm

I just want to add that since the Source 210 has room for a 120mm fan on the bottom and since your PSU is modular, putting a fan in that location would also feed the GPU pretty well while probably being a bit quieter since it's underneath your case.
I would suggest the PSU intake from underneath the case irregardless. If the case sits on the floor, I would also suggest raising the case to allow a bit more room under there (3/4" is good) regardless of whether the case sits on carpet or hard floor. Dust blows around easily on hard floors and you dont want that winding up inside your case or psu since there's no dust filter for the bottom intakes in the Source 210 (that I can see). If the case sits on a platform/desk/cubby then there's nothing to worry about.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:00 pm

Hello,
Thanks for your replies. I wanted to know if there are any recommendations regarding temperature monitoring programs (which components should I be particularly concerned about? CPU? GPU?). Also, do you have any recommendations/tips on how to prolong SSD life and how to optimize the SSD? I've read many things online and it seems quite complicated. I intend to install my main OS on the SSD along with frequently used programs. I also might consider dual booting (is this is a bad idea for SSD?). Again, thank you very much.
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Re: $800 Mid-Level Gaming Build

Postposted on Sat Dec 01, 2012 6:54 am

Rebbig wrote:Hello,
Thanks for your replies. I wanted to know if there are any recommendations regarding temperature monitoring programs (which components should I be particularly concerned about? CPU? GPU?). Also, do you have any recommendations/tips on how to prolong SSD life and how to optimize the SSD? I've read many things online and it seems quite complicated. I intend to install my main OS on the SSD along with frequently used programs. I also might consider dual booting (is this is a bad idea for SSD?). Again, thank you very much.


As long as you haven't insulated your motherboard's southbridge chipset with bubblewrap, the only temperatures you need to worry about are CPU and GPU.
  • CoreTemp is a pretty good, lightweight CPU monitor, though sometimes the motherboard manufacturer's one is okay. (such as Asus Probe II)
  • The AMD graphics drivers will tell you fan speeds, clock speeds and temperatures of your GPU, but a good althernative is GPU-Z

The best way to look after an SSD is to not look after it. Just do a default Windows install which will detect it as an SSD, disable disk-defrag and align the partition correctly. Doing anything else is not optimal. Do not benchmark it frequently, do not try and help it. If it's running well, anything you do will just make more work for it. As for prolonging it's life, you would need to go out of your way to kill an SSD by using up all the flash cycles. Unless you're insane, a single-user will never do it - it takes a company workload of several people hammering an SSD 24/7 in a server to wear one out before the warranty expires.

And finally, dual-booting is not a problem for the SSD, other than the space it takes up. SSD's are happiest when they're not full - The controllers don't have to work as hard and you get higher performance when there is some free space. I try never to go above 80% full.
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